In the Shadow of Great Wings, pt. 1

Hey everyone, sorry for the lack of updates, but I’ve been crazy busy these last couple of weeks! That being said, I do have something new to share with you today, a new conversion of an established character that I hope you will appreciate — some of you may already be suspecting who it is we are talking about, based on the title of this post, but anyway: Here goes:

When I shared my 30k Khârn conversion with you recently, several fellow hobbyists here and on the forums suggested I should actually also create a model for Argel Tal of the Word Bearers, Crimson Lord of the Gal Vorbak and ostensibly Khârn’s BFF during the events of Aaron Demsbki-Bowden’s “Betrayer”.

Now for those of you not following the Horus Heresy novels, Argel Tal and his brethren are arguably the first-ever Chaos Space Marines: Sent by Lorgar into the Eye of Terror itself, they become possessed by Daemons of the warp and, from that point onwards, are able to transform into hideous yet powerful semi-daemonic creatures during combat — pretty much proto-Possessed Chaos Space Marines, if you will. Their story is told in ADB’s novel “The First Heretic”, and the Gal Vorbak have also been immortalised by receiving their own dedicated Forgeworld models that match the descriptions appearing in the novel rather closely:

Argel Tal makes a return in “Betrayer”, serving as one of the novel’s main characters. And, like I said, he bonds rather closely with the World Eaters’ 8th Captain, creating what may be the Horus Heresy’s grimdark version of a buddy-cop scenario 😉

So creating an Argel Tal model to accompany my version of Khârn seems like a pretty cool idea, right? Even so, I was pretty reluctant.

Argel Tal just seemed very hard to get right, especially given his part-daemonic nature: When I did some research on Argel Tal conversions, most models I discovered were either based on Forgeworld’s Gal Vorbak models shown above (the guy in the front row seems like a dead-ringer for Argel Tal as he is described in “The First Heretic”) or on a mixture of plastic Possessed and Raptor bits. But neither approach really quite clicked for me: On the one hand, I didn’t really want to have to buy a set of Gal Vorbak models, cheap bastard that I am 😉 And the Gal Vorbak models are also a fair bit taller than standard Astartes, while I wanted the two models to work together, which would be easier with models of a similar size.

The combination of Possessed and Raptor parts, on the other hand, seemed promising, but the main pitfall I saw was to end up with a model that just looked like any old CSM Raptor, when Argel Tal is such a cool character and deserves a conversion with a certain originality and presence.

So I was just about content with leaving the character well alone, but then my buddy DexterKong joined the chorus of those clamouring for an Argel Tal conversion — and I could never really turn down a conversion challenge from Dexter, so over the course of an afternoon, a couple of ideas actually coagulated into a model (which we’ll be taking a look at in a minute).

For inspiration, I mostly worked from the description of Argel Tal given in “Betrayer”: With his daemonic possession having been underway for quite a while by the events of the novel, Argel Tal’s “combat form” seems to have developed into a slightly more stable version. He has also gained a pair of wings, which feature rather prominently in the scenes he appears in. And he is wielding a pair of Custodian weapons: a sword and a freaking Guardian Spear. I was pretty sure this last part would pose quite a challenge, especially given the plastic Custodes’ increased size and bulk.

I also used two pieces of artwork that came really close to how I imagined Argel Tal. One is this fantastic piece of art courtesy of slaine69:

Argel Tal by slaine69

This illustration does a rather fantastic job of showing Argel Tal in all his daemonic glory, while also including enough visual cues that point towards his Astartes roots, such as the corrupted Mk. IV armour and helmet.

The other piece of art I felt drawn to was the possessed Chaos Space Marine from the cover of GW’s Black Legion supplement:

Granted, the armour is definitely the wrong colour. But this guy is really close to how I imagine Argel Tal, plus this general look also seemed to be attainable by using the right set of bitz.

So with these pointers in mind, I created the following:




So, a couple of conversion notes on the model:

  • I tried to choose armour parts for Argel Tal that seemed suitably chaotic and warped while also recalling the Mk. IV armour the character wears during the events of Betrayer. The Chaos Raptor kit came in handy here, allowing for armour that really matched both criteria.
  • When it came to creating the wings, the obvious solution would have been to make use of the winged backpack from the Possessed kit:


But to be perfectly honest, I really don’t like that bit: It seems so very symmetrical and cartoony. And the wings are also a fair bit too small to lift a creature of Astartes size. Fortunately enough, I found a set of leftover Vargheist wings in my bitzbox, and they were carefully grafted to the organic looking backpack of Dark Vengeance’s Kranon model. I am really rather happy with the result!

  • The head was probably the one instance where I actually consciously deviated from canon: In the books, Argel Tal’s daemonic form is described as wearing a warped version of an Mk. IV helmet, with the faceplate actually cracked into a daemonic maw. And right enough, the Raptor/Warp Talon kit actually features several helmets that clearly look like corrupted Mk. IV helmets. But whenever I tried adding one of them to the model, it ended up looking like just another standard Raptor. I then wanted to add Kranon’s horns to the helmet to make it look less vanilla. And gut instinct made me carefully dig out Kranon’s entire head from its original torso and add it to the conversion. And I really think it works rather nicely: It’s not an Mk. IV helmet, certainly, but it does have the daemonic maw. It’s also not a head you see all that often, so it does make the character look more original and “special”, in a way.
  • And finally, the weapons: Having the character wield both a sword and a Guardian Spear would have looked ridiculous enough before the new plastic Custodes were released, but given the size and bulk of the new models (and their weapons), it basically seemed unfeasible. So I decided to arm Argel Tal with a Guardian Spear, as it seemed like the more iconic weapon of the two. I did replace the original haft with a Chaos Knight’s spear, however, to bring out the spear-like qualities of the weapon a bit more.

However, I also wanted to feature the sword in some shape or form, seeing how the way Argel Tal came by it seemed so significant to me. So I decided on a slightly more subtle way of including the sword — by actually making it a part of Argel Tal’s base:






That sword sticking out from the fallen Astartes at Argel Tal’s feet? That may or may not be his sword: I imagine Argel Tal as a highly dynamic fighter, zipping across the battlefield like a whirlwind of destruction, so maybe this is him coming back to pick up his sword after fighting elsewhere? Moreover, if both Khârn and Argel Tal are placed next to each other, they seem to be interacting rather nicely as a mini-diorama of sorts:


And a small narrative suggests itself: Maybe Argel Tal was occupied elsewhere on the battlefield, saw an Ultramarine sneaking up on Khârn, threw his sword and is now swooping down to take it back — and assist his BFF while he’s at it?

Anyway, all things considered, and given my earlier reservations about tackling this particular character in the first place, I am pretty happy with the finished conversion — of course now I’ll have to do a “human” version as well, to show Argel Tal when he’s off the battlefield (or when the gloves have not yet come off…).

Bonus model:

All the time spent messing around with Guardian Spears really gave me a desire for building my first new plastic Custodian. And after going through “The First Heretic” again for conversion cues, memories of Aquillon were still pretty fresh on my mind, so…




Anyway, so much for today’s update. I would love to hear any feedback you might have! And, as always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!

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15 Responses to “In the Shadow of Great Wings, pt. 1”

  1. Wow, he is a big guy (which makes sense for when he is “hulked out”). Krannon’s head is well suited to this figure too.

    And that custodian is great… best feature? Hard to decide between the more sensible sword or the cape. Speaking of the cape, how did you do it? Is it made from sheet plastic?

    • Cheers, mate! Regarding the Custodian, the too clunky swords are my main gripe about the kit, and I think replacing them with GK swords does a pretty good job of returning some of the elegance we know from classic Custodes artwork. As for the cape, that’s actually a Forgeworld bit (Loken’s cape, I believe) that I merely cut down a bit to fit on the Custodian’s back.

  2. Dylan Says:

    I really like the sword in the base. It looks like he’s reaching for so it gives the model a lot of motion.

  3. rednekkboss Says:

    Always liked the Varghast wings for Chaos. Great looking model!

  4. Colin Says:

    Looking forward to seeing Argel Tal painted! First time posting here – really enjoy your work and your blog.

  5. Really good work. The position of the model reaching for the sword create the feeling of motion in my mind, just as if he is deftly maneuvering the battlefield as you say.

    • Thanks, Faramous! That was very much the plan, so I am really glad that it seems to have worked out! 🙂

      • Awesome. You’re welcome.

        Have you considered doing a beginners guide to conversion/kit bashing? Maybe you already have and I have just missed it… This thought came to me because every single time you post a new item on your blog, it inspires me to get converting. I’m sure I’m not the only one. It seems to me that your process is stronger than the average “converter” because you clearly do your research and, most of the time, set out with a direction in mind. I like it.

  6. Dexter Says:

    I cannot imagine what a pain it must have been to dig that head out of the original model. The entire left side of his head would have to be carved out!

    I think this model is brilliant, and as an American, we rarely use the term “brilliant” to express admiration. Can’t wait to see his non-possessed form!

    • Thanks so much, Dexter! 🙂 Surprisingly enough, digging out that Kranon head wasn’t nearly as complicated as I had feared: There are some grooves on the back of Kranon’s torso that basically show you where the head should end, and the plastic is also thin enough at that point to carefully cut out the head — with the caveat that Kranon’s head only really works at this particular angle, seeing how it doesn’t really have a fully realised left side.

  7. Argel Tal looks great! He cuts a distinctive figure, and alongside Kharn they make a splendid duo.

    Aquillon looks good, too. The Grey Knights swords look much better on Custodes than the normal swords. They’re far more elegant, as suits the nature of the Custodes.

    • Thanks, man! I couldn’t agree any more with you regarding the swords — a longer blade returns some of the flowing elegance we know from the artwork, which I think is crucial because the actual Custodes models are pretty massive and slightly clunky!

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